University of Utah student, Tim DeChristopher arrived at the BLM building in Salt Lake City intending to join some 200 other people protesting the Bush administration’s decision to auction oil and gas rights on federal lands near some of our most iconic national parks. Then he had one of those profound insights that change people’s lives forever.
As Tim put it in his online statement:
I have been an environmentalist for most of my life. I have marched, held signs, written letters and spoken to my Congressman. I have built trails and removed invasive species in National Parks. I have educated friends on climate change and donated to a dozen different groups. Countless others have done all these same things for decades in defense of our wilderness and a livable future.
It hasn’t worked. Even with a new administration, we are not on track for a livable future. This has been made clear by James Hanson, Bill McKibben, Al Gore and many others. The legitimate pathways to power have not provided us with the ability to defend the survival of our civilization. Yesterday I decided that the crisis facing us requires more critical action than has been taken in the past. When faced with the opportunity to seriously disrupt the auction of some of our most beautiful lands in Utah to oil and gas developers, I could not ethically turn my back on that opportunity. By making bids for land that was supposed to be protected for the interests of all Americans, I tried to resist the Bush administration’s attempt to defraud the American people.
During the auction, Tim purchased the oil and gas rights to 10 parcels of BLM land around Arches and Canyonlands National Parks for 1.8 million dollars that he doesn’t have. He also drove up the bidding on a number of other parcels that he didn’t purchase.
Eventually, bidders representing oil and gas companies became suspicious and alerted BLM officials who notified Salt Lake City plainclothes policemen (who were already in the room!). Tim was detained, questioned and then released by federal agents, but may face federal charges.
The BLM was offering 131 parcels at the auction on Friday of which it sold 116 including the ones that Tim purchased. The total number of acres offered was 149,000 down from the 360,000 acres that the Bush administration proposed before the public outcry became so great that the BLM scaled back. By the way, the oil and gas rights on those 131 parcels sold for 7.5 million dollars, approximately $57.00 an acre. The price would have been even lower if Tim hadn’t been there bidding. These lands belong to the American people but were being sold-off, at white-sale prices, to Bush and Cheney’s cronies in the Climaticide mafia.
Tim’s actions bore immediate fruit:
BLM official Terry Catlin said the agency didn’t want to reopen the bidding on the parcels DeChristopher snagged unless all interested parties were able to compete for the leases. That means the parcels won’t be available again until at least February — after Obama takes office — during the next scheduled auction.
DeChristopher, who acknowledged upping other bids by about $500,000, said he would be willing to go to jail to defend his generation’s prospects in light of global climate disruption and other environmental threats.
“If that’s what it takes,” he said.
I know that I used this quotation little more than a week ago in a post about the Green Banksy, but it is so appropriate here that I have to repeat it.
“At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, ‘thus far and no further.’ If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, ‘If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behavior.‘ “ Ed Abbey
Tim Christopher got in trouble on Friday not for his bad but for his good (in the truest sense of the word) behavior. In the process he set an example for us all of not only of how to reorient our moral compasses so that they once again point North, but of how to act once we’ve found the direction in which we wish to travel. Bravo Tim!
NOTE: You can contribute to Tim’s legal defense fund at the Center for Water Advocacy, a non-profit public interest law firm.
UPDATE January 7, 2008: Tim, in accordance with the advice of his attorneys, has decided to try and purchase the leases he won at the auction and needs to make a payment of $45,000 by January 9th to maintain his rights. his actions have ispired a huge outpouring of support. If you wish to contribute, click on the link below.
You can read Tim’s latest letter here.
Photos Above: 1) Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, 2) Green River Overlook, Canyonlands National Park, 3) Park Avenue, Arches National Park 4) Colorado River, Canyonlands National Park
Photo credits: National Park Service Photo